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What happens next with North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment 1?

Amendment One

By Scottie Thomaston

Last night the odious Amendment 1 passed in North Carolina. Rural counties with typically conservative voters passed it overwhelmingly while areas with a liberal and racially diverse population split different ways, with some heavily pro-Obama precincts from the 2008 election voting in favor and a few opposed. Throughout the campaign the opponents of the amendment pressed the claim that since the language says the “only domestic legal union” that would be “valid or recognized” in North Carolina is marriage between a man and a woman, it would ban attempts to have civil unions in the future and eliminate existing domestic partnerships and benefits. Unswayed by those arguments, voters opted to put the ban in the state constitution.

The fall out was immediate:

Bill James held off an aggressive challenge from Ed Driggs to win the GOP primary for the District 6 seat on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, with the eight-term incumbent commissioner capturing nearly 52 percent of the vote.
…James is already pushing Mecklenburg to scrap its policy that provides domestic partner health insurance benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The county has been offering same-sex benefits to employees since commissioners approved the policy in 2009.

He argues they should not waste scarce resources that will probably end up being litigated eventually anyway, and they would face losses because of the amendment’s language. These benefits are only one facet of the benefits provided to couples who were formerly in domestic partnerships in the state until last night. Aside from benefits provided to couples, there are benefits for children’s health insurance that could end of affected. There are also protections against domestic violence that could be eliminated, since the statute in North Carolina’s code regarding domestic violence protections refers to certain defined types of relationships that are “recognized” and now they will not be recognized.

CBS News reported on what could happen now:

The amendment likely would affect issues other than gay marriage the most because the “marriage-plus” amendment approved in North Carolina prohibits not only same-sex marriage, but also same-sex civil unions. Nineteen states have such amendments, Dinan said.

For example, a handful of local governments provide benefits to employees who are involved in same-sex relationships. In Michigan, the state’s highest court ruled that an amendment did affect those benefits, Dinan said. But in North Carolina, officials in Durham and Orange counties have said they don’t expect to have to eliminate those benefits because of the amendment, he said.

Opponents had said they feared the law could affect domestic violence protections, some of which refer to people who live together. Dinan said he doubted that would happen, although Ohio had a three-year court fight over the issue before the Supreme Court ruled the laws weren’t affected.

The proponents of the amendment had campaigned on the claim that the amendment only defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Their ads even specifically made that direct claim, while at the same time citing research on their own website that refutes the claim and admits the amendment bans civil unions and domestic partnerships. These questions will need to be litigated:

“The screaming, excruciating paradox of all this is that supporters wanted to take this out of the judges’ hands. Clearly it will have the opposite effect,” Munger said. “…There will be litigation, and judges will have to decide what the darn thing means.”

Aside from the legal ramifications, there are implications for the larger LGBT rights movement. North Carolina is a southern state, and a lot of the national LGBT organizations did not want to get involved in the region to stand alongside LGBT southerners and fight back. Many organizations and many LGBT donors and allies completely abandoned those of us who live here in the South and are working to change the hearts of our neighbors. There are LGBT people struggling all over the country, not just in politically convenient areas with demographics that point to relatively easy victories; and for those of us who are stuck in a region where we lose more often than we see gains, it’s particularly hurtful to see allies stand aside and watch these things happen to us. Part of the reason I have been so invested in North Carolina is I live in the South, in south Alabama. I know what it means to feel like no one is paying attention and watch our allies grow silent as these things happen to our brothers and sisters.

I agree with our own Adam Bink:

Adam Bink, the director of online programs at the Courage Campaign, a group that has been working to get voters to the polls in recent weeks, says that the movement can’t afford to give up on gay couples who don’t have the relatively good fortune to live in Minnesota or Maine.

Said Bink, “I think it’s really important that we don’t leave any state behind.”

This isn’t over, in North Carolina or anywhere else.

More in the extended entry…

Here’s the letter from Courage Campaign that went out today:

Adam: Just now, our allies at the Coalition to Protect All NC Families conceded, as we were unable to defeat Amendment One in North Carolina. Discrimination is now enshrined into North Carolina’s constitution — for now.

First, THANK YOU for all you have done — whether it was by chipping in to fund this campaign, making phone calls to voters, or just telling a friend to vote against the amendment. Second, please see the note below from Amanda — a Courage member who traveled all the way from Sacramento, CA to Raleigh, NC to get out the vote — on why we need your help to continue our work in November. –Adam

Dear Adam:

I’m on the ground in Raleigh. I’ll skip the inspirational words and look forward to what we need to do now: in November, we face four more same-sex marriage ballot fights in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Courage Campaign members and staff worked their butts off to defeat Amendment 1. I for one am tired of losing these ballot initiatives, and with the Supreme Court likely to consider a marriage equality lawsuit soon, we need to ensure we win this November.

Adam, I’m not giving up. Will you recommit with me by investing in our “Fight Everywhere Fund” as a monthly donor to ensure we win in MD, ME, MN and WA in November? Courage will send you the button you see at right and we can start working now on winning in November.

As a Courage volunteer who canvassed hundreds of homes here in North Carolina, I can attest to what your dollars will do:

  • If you give, Courage Campaign can once again build and manage the out-of-state GOTV call program, which generated over 75,689 calls from Courage members to North Carolina voters.
  • If you give, Courage Campaign can once again send members like me from all over the country to get out the vote in these critical states, by arranging supporter housing, covering the cost of transportation, and integrating our efforts with the state-based campaigns.
  • If you give, Courage Campaign can once again organize novel fundraisers like #Tweet2BeatA1, an effort on Twitter that helped generate $43,000 in one day for the Campaign to Protect All NC Families — part of a state-record $910,000 raised online, where one out of every five donors on ActBlue was a Courage member.
  • Finally, if you give, Courage Campaign can hire more staff to help make sure we have the capacity we need to succeed in all four states this fall.
  • I’ve seen Courage’s hard work first-hand here in North Carolina, and I’m all in. Will you give just $14 or more each month to make sure we win on marriage in November?

    I worked hard here in North Carolina, and I’m ready to do so again in the fall. Help more people do what I did by investing in Courage today.

    Thanks for fighting so hard,

    Amanda Wallner, Courage member (Sacramento, CA)


    • 1. Seth from Maryland  |  May 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

      OMG, OMG, OMG theres rumors on MSNBC that President Obama is about to come out in support of marriage equality

    • 2. Scottie Thomaston  |  May 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

      I've heard. Sort of an odd choice of timing.

    • 3. Seth from Maryland  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

      hmm, it seems like to me that the media is getting a little to ahead of itself, from what i can seeing, the only thing is Robin Roberts will have a interview with President Obama very soon and ask him his postion on marriage equality

    • 4. Mark  |  May 9, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Diane Sawyer is interviewing him on ABC World News this evening (source: Huffington Post)

    • 5. fiona64  |  May 9, 2012 at 10:39 am

      I just did some quick math for a post I made on Facebook. 33 percent of eligible voters turned out for the election in North Carolina. Of those, 61 percent voted in favor of Amendment One. Thus, the state constitution was amended (for the first time since 1875 … more on that momentarily) based on the bigotry of 19.8 percent (yep, fewer than 20 percent) of eligible voters.

      The last time the NC constitution was amended, it was to insert an anti-miscegenation law. WTF is i nthe water south of the Mason-Dixon line?

    • 6. Gregory in SLC  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

      Religion – Southern Style. Baptists in SLC let us use their church for LGBT "Cyber Slut" Bingo Fridays (main pastor attends bingo w/ his 4 young children and wife…they have a great time). They also offered their building for a Mormon Affirmation LGBT conference recently when the Mormon Church refused to allow use of any Mormon church owned building …that the attendees all helped build via tithing contributions. Go to the Southern Baptists (that I've experienced in Atlanta and Kentucky) and you risk being fired for reading Harry Potter(encourages satanic worshiping…yes this happened to me) and don't even think about revealing your gay tendencies or you will be asked to leave, chased out of building with "Satan, get the hence from this hallowed place" (yes, happened to me in Kentucky baptist church, who I was helping by playing the piano for their choir after their pianist quit)

      However, in Salt Lake City, even though we have full support by the Methodist, Episcopalian, Unitarian and Baptist churches….we have the Mormon mafia which will make this state one of the last to "fall" ::Big sigh::

      @ WTF is i nthe water south of the Mason-Dixon line?

    • 7. AnonyGrl  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      Greg, while being chased from a church while doing them a favor is a horrible thing, I have to say, I pictured you and Ariel dashing out, giggling hysterically, while Southern Baptist women in floofy church hats and sensible heels, clutching their fake pearls chased you with torches and pitchforks.

      Sometimes you just have to take the awfulness and laugh.

      It is good to hear that other churches are coming around. I am glad you have support where you are, and hope that the pockets of sanity in the south (there are some) can spread and grow.

    • 8. Steve  |  May 10, 2012 at 6:24 am

      The Southern Baptists were founded for the sole purpose of defending and continuing slavery. That says it all

    • 9. MJFargo  |  May 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Excellent article about yesterday in North Carolina in "The New Yorker"

    • 10. Gregory in SLC  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Thank you for sharing…AMEN!

      There are families whose lives will now get worse. They, and we, have arrived at a moment when politicians—including the President—need to say what they believe, what risks they are willing to take, and what, in the end, is worth fighting for.

    • 11. Gabriel  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

      IF we were like these right wing idiots, we would be calling for armed revolution. Their newsletters are calling for it simply because they would have President Obama for 4 more years. We live in a sick and crazy time here in the south.

    • 12. Seth from Maryland  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

      i wish these last couple of day would just disappear and be completly wipe from our memories, this has just been awful, UGH!!!

    • 13. William Estes  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

      2 points on NC:

      – I really appreciate Adam's calling out Chris Hughes for his laughably small contribution as well as other mega-donors who abandoned NC. I do think that Adam, the CC and all of us need to focus on why our major gay organizations – HRC and NGLTF, with combined annual revenue of $50 million – consistently fail to step up on these fights. They do help some. They typically lend staffers to help and they might donate a few hundred thousand dollars. That is not enough. What we wind up with is a fundraising edge, but not a decisive advantage. We must have a decisive advantage to win. Why is it more important for HRC to horde money than to write a check for $2, 3 or 4 million for ME and WA?

      – The NC campaign clearly failed in get out the vote efforts. In an off-election, GOTV is king. But you could see in the breakdown of the half million early ballots, for which there is good demographic data, that our side was not turning out our voters. The average age of those voters was 57 and there were more 82 year old voters than there were 24, 25, or 26 year old voters. College age voters were only very slightly more likely to have voted than a 30-year old, which shows that our side's on-campus efforts bore meager fruit.

      There is a competence deficit on GOTV which we have seen in ME in 2009. We also saw it in Anchorage last month.

      In November, this will be less of an issue, but it remains a dirty little secret of the marriage equality campaigns. So long as that competence issue remains, we will always fail in off-elections. We might ask why the uber-professional staffers on loan from NGLTF and HRC cannot effectively conduct GOTV.

    • 14. Paul Fleege  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      As much as pointing to the national organizations can be easy and yes, sometimes legitimate, ultimately I really think “we the activist” need to look at our own community of LGBT people.

      Now this comment is more for people in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington (who all have statewide non-discrimination laws whereas North Carolina did not), but “we” need to figure out (or maybe even ostracize) those within our community who do not think they have any obligation to contribute money and in this case, TIME to help out the rest of the LGBT community—–it was recently pointed out that only about 5 % give any money to the national organizations.

      By now, the community should realize that the whole initiative behind these ballot questions is because of hater of LGBT people. So whether or not one wants or cares about marriage for themselves, the rest of the LGBT community needs to see these attacks as being directed at them because of who they love. And then to step up and fight like hell against them! Instead of assuming others will fight the battles and wars against them.

    • 15. Jamie  |  May 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      There was never any hope that we could defeat this amendment. We could have spent $50 million and it would have passed. What exactly would that have accomplished? It would have wasted valuable resources that can be used elsewhere.

    • 16. William Estes  |  May 10, 2012 at 12:36 am

      Well, my 2 points – about the failure of the national groups to contribute sufficiently and the competence deficit on GOTV – apply generally to how we have run these campaigns. Even if you want to write off NC as unwinnable, those issues would remain and I am sure that we will see them come up in the 4 campaigns in November.

      Consider ME and WA in 2009. There was nothing else going on in the country that year other than those 2 contests. In both cases, HRC helped, but refused to really open its coffers to a degree that would have allowed our side to achieve a decisive advantage, say a 3 or 4-1 advantage. Instead, they lent staff and gave a few hundred grand, while hording cash. We wound up just barely losing one contest while just barely winning the other. And the loss in ME negatively influenced developments in NY and NJ that same year. What exactly is so important to HRC that they have to horde their cash rather than deploy it where it is needed when it is needed?

    • 17. Owen  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

      A lot of people won't like this, but:

      I think last night shows that we put too many eggs in the North Carolina basket when Colorado and Rhode Island were more winnable.

    • 18. AnonyGrl  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      I think it is important that we fight as hard as we can in ALL the fights. Letting the harder to win battles slide doesn't help.

    • 19. Owen  |  May 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Well ignoring middle-of-the-road battles like CO and RI isn't a good strategy either.

    • 20. AnonyGrl  |  May 10, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Nope… we should be fighting there too!

    • 21. Rick  |  May 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

      To amend something as fundamental as a state constitution should require a higher threshold than a simple majority vote. A 2/3 majority would seem to be more reasonable.

    • 22. Reformed  |  May 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      I was thinkin that too. But now that it has passed, I am ok with it being a simple majority, so much easier to win back. (Unless the NC tries to change the ammendment process to require a 2/3rd majority, that would be SO convenient, woundn't it?)

    • 23. AnonyGrl  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      I wonder if the removal of benefits in Mecklenburg would bring up the same litigatory issues as Prop 8, that is, granting rights, then taking them away?

      Might be something to look at.

    • 24. phoenix  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      The Democratic National Convention should not be held in N.C., but I'm not holding my breath that it'll be moved on such short notice.

    • 25. Jamie  |  May 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      They can't move it.

    • 26. Reformed  |  May 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm


    • 27. AnonyGrl  |  May 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Here is a nice take…

    • 28. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  May 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      […] than eight hours after the passage of anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina, local jurisdictions were trying to eliminate domestic partner benefits. This and other consequences that were discussed repeatedly during the campaign will continue to […]

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